Farewell, Content: Another Holiday Ruined Before It Was Quite Gone

As a teacher, one enjoys a slightly longer holiday than most people–though”enjoy” may be used somewhat rhetorically, considering that our entire break is often divided between seeing our families and racing to prepare for classes saddled upon us with little warning.

The family reunions, at least, should be pleasant… shouldn’t they?  Not always.  But do they have to end like this?

Your last evening with the person you raised from the cradle, and whom you may not see again for half a year… and he and Auntie fight over what movie to watch.  Auntie gets up and announces that she’s returning to the hotel.  Well, you can’t have that… so you try to make peace, to introduce compromise.  You think you’ve pulled it off.  Yet you can see that College Lad is still smarting from the treatment.  He wants to remain civil, but… but this eventually requires his departing to say his goodbyes to a high school friend.  Doesn’t know when he’ll be back.  You wait up, fighting to keep your lids open and listening to Auntie ramble on about you know not what.  Finally you surrender, send Auntie away with apologies, and pass a very uneven night which only partially relieves your exhaustion.

Why do these things happen?  Did they always happen so, or was there once a Silver Age when family members were all politeness and consideration?  I find myself asking more and more if life was once better as I get older.  Many times, a little reflection strongly recommends the answer, “Yes!”

In this instance, though, I’m skeptical.  After all, I’ve had my own run-ins with “the family”.  I spent one Thanksgiving evening about ten years ago walking around the neighborhood in the rain because of a tantrum thrown by someone over having to forsake the Dallas Cowboys game for the dinner table.  And in this instance, I think my boy’s response was similar, and similarly guiltless.  He had been rudely issued an ultimatum and identified his mounting annoyance soon enough that he vacated the premises before more words leaked out.  That was the better choice.

But why do these things ever happen at all?  They’re not supposed to happen, are they?  Something in me wants to believe that it’s just our family–that we somehow got a raw deal; but I’ve heard too many stories from others to think that peace reigned supreme behind all of those warmly glowing windows drifting past me on a rainy Thanksgiving evening.

If a wagon has a wheel that’s out of kilter, the wagon still rolls.  But it grows ever more wobbly the farther it goes… until, eventually, the wheel breaks free in a great crash.  So it is with people and their oddities.  The older they get, the better they learn to protect and indulge their strange tendencies, and the more out-of-whack these grow.  We’re supposed to acquire wisdom with age, but it doesn’t always happen; and, indeed, I’m afraid it rather rarely happens.  Especially if we fall into the habit of giving into ourselves and making adaptations instead of corrections, we become more like spoiled-brat children just when we were supposed to have become wise elders.

I hope I never learn to protect my little lunacies that well.  I’d rather die early than live to be a cranky old fool.

Auld Lang Syne… Just Move On

During my long car ride to the eastern seaboard a few days ago, I was able to wile away many hours by scribbling.  Among other things, I ground out a poem answering an invitation to attend my high school class’s forty-fifth reunion.  I’ve posted the whole poem under a pseudonym on another site.  None of my quondam classmates will read it there… and none will read the final fragment here.  (When I notified the whole group of a book I’d published through Smashwords two summers ago, four said that they had bought or would buy a copy, not knowing that I’m automatically informed of sales.  There was one purchase.)  The poem’s first part represents the invitation, full of “school spirit” and almost clad in a letter-jacket.  This brief portion is my answer:

Appreciate the thought

(If no more deep it went

Than matching roster spots

With invitations sent).

 

Someone of your name once

Knew someone who had mine.

Their boyhood, by a chance,

Shared common place and time.

 

They went their separate ways…

Or one stayed, one left town.

With him, he took my name—

But ditched his cap and gown.

 

And how he sought his god,

And what truth found him bare

And dressed him for the road—

That’s nothing I will share.

 

The boy I was is dead—

The one you thought you knew.

Your kindly card was read

To something in a tomb.

 

Me, I remain alive—

But not where beads are pearls.

Appreciate your time.

Right name, but not right world.

 

 

Why “Nil Novi”?

“What has been is what will be,” sayerh the Preacher. “There’s nothing new under the sun.” The final words of Ecclesiastes (the Greek word translated as “preacher”) would be rendered sub sole nil novi: “under the sun, nothing of new.” (Many languages, such as Russian, join the classical ones in using a possessive with a negative. Of all that’s new, not a particle finds its way into daily life… that kind of thing.)

Seems like a strange handle for a blog, I know. The Internet, news, blogposts, the latest–all of this appears diametrically contrary to the notion that life moves in circles. In the first place, I could plead weakly that the other monikers for which I made a bid were taken. My initial choice was “paleo forever”, reflecting my steady affection for things past… but that, improbably, was taken. (And here I thought that I was the only person who regarded novelty as cheap luster!) To move from that abortive first choice to claiming that there’s nothing new whatever, though, represents a small step deeper into skepticism than I had intended.

But I also must confess that I really do agree with the Preacher. “The more it changes,” quipped a French wag in the same vein, “the more it stays the same.” Here I sit, trying to figure out the intricacies of WordPress so that, in the long run, I may build up an online ebook-publishing concern… and the banner at my masthead reads, “Nothing new”? Have I no shame?

I have, and that’s why I’m writing this post. You see, the publishing game has always been a mess of contradictions–at least if you play it with a conscience. You’re trying to get people to stop and notice a discussion so that they will devote several hours to it–and most people have neither the time to spare as they are blown about in the wind nor the intellectual stamina to hold onto a discussion from p. 1 to p. 200. Those that do are hidden in the crowd, a diffuse and quiet minority. Will they respond to the bull horn or the firecracker? Probably not. Be more subtle… but is subtlety not first cousin to trickery?

That’s how you end up writing a blog titled, “Nothing New”. The paradox is not of my creation, but of life’s. And it has always been so: human life has always been paradoxical.